Portrait of Dylan Abruscato, 2022. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
Szabolcs Bozo, CL0202018. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
For many years, New Yorker Dylan Abruscato felt alienated from the prospect of collecting art. He’s a millennial who loves art, but feared he didn’t have the deep connections to the art world he would need to build an art collection.
A major transition led Abruscato to re-evaluate his priorities. “When my wife and I moved into our first apartment together, I became obsessed with this idea of starting a collection together and filling those walls with art,” he told Artsy. His grandparents shared a common love for collecting (prints, in particular), and Abruscato and his wife, Sarah, wanted to follow in their footsteps by settling into their new home in Brooklyn. Dylan, who works in partnerships and marketing, has learned to translate his professional values into his emerging collecting practice: he makes real connections with young artists, buys their works and supports their early careers.
Jansson Stegner, installation view of OTC2017. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
Szabolcs Bozo, CP0052018. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
The Abruscatos have also made the most of their age-old Internet savvy. As they prepared to make their first acquisitions, the couple embraced online shopping and social media. Dylan was a fan of painter Jordan Kerwick’s fine brushwork and depictions of quiet domestic scenes, and in 2017 he decided to send a cold message to the artist, asking him for a piece of work. “Buying him a piece was as easy as texting a friend,” Dylan said.
Through these intimate channels, the couple pierced what previously seemed like an impregnable space for collecting art. In the five years since this exchange with Kerwick, they have amassed a collection that includes works by emerging artists Anna Weyant, Szabolcs Bozó, Monica Subidé and Jansson Stegner.
Vojtech Kovařík, Two balls2018. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
The Abruscatos pursue different interests as they build their collection. Dylan, for his part, prefers work that leans towards the emerging style of “cuteness”. Bozó’s colorful paintings of animals and imaginary creatures fall into this category. “He is part of this generation of artists who seek the aesthetics of childlike images associated with nostalgia,” said Dylan. “And for some reason those bright, bold colors and nostalgia spoke to me, whereas my wife is drawn to more timeless pieces, especially modern takes on classic masterpieces.” For example, Sarah led the purchase of Stegner’s finely detailed sketch of a young woman. The artist is known for a figurative realist style that draws inspiration from Egon Schiele and Alice Neel.
Some of their individual pieces beautifully balance such playfulness and serious modernist concerns. Take, for example, their large-scale painting of Vojtěch Kovařík, Two balls (2018). The painting, which depicts a large figure holding two tiny scoops of ice cream, reflects Kovařík’s very modern style and evokes the bulbous shapes of Pablo Picasso and Paul Cézanne.
Charlotte Keates, Night swim2017. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
Jordan Kerwick, Untitled (Command)2017. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
The Abruscatos’ enthusiasm for the artist proved premonitory. Kovařík just made his auction debut at Phillips’ Contemporary and 20th Century Art and Design sale in Hong Kong last June: his painting Mother Afrodita (2020) sold for HK$945,000 (US$120,378), an incredible 278% above the median estimate of HK$250,000 (US$31,906).
Equally terrific is the small-scale painting of the couple by Charlotte Keates, Night swim (2017), which features the surreal exterior of a house. Keates, who has an impressive 754 Artsy subscribers and strong primary market sales, is known for her fine brushwork and architectural subject matter. She paints solitary interiors and exteriors in a way that evokes the utopianism and Cold War anxieties of the 1960s and 1970s.
The Abruscatos also own works by Anna Weyant, who made a triumphant debut at New York’s spring auction in 2022. Weyant has sold paintings at every major auction house, for around $1 million a canvas. Of their highly acclaimed collection, Dylan said, “I think we were lucky at first buying from these artists who have since had huge secondary sales. We really try to collect what we love. The couple advise their friends and other young collectors alike to buy what they like, not what they think will sell on the secondary market in a few years.
Ben Sledsens, Waterfall Moon2021. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
Before the pandemic, Abruscatos approached galleries and art fairs as interested viewers, not collectors. During the later years of the pandemic, as online sales became the norm, they built their collection through virtual channels. Now they confidently attend fairs and gallery exhibitions with the eyes of trained collectors.
“I’ve done so many purchases on social media and never seen [the work] in person,” Dylan said. “So when galleries moved to online viewing rooms, it didn’t come as a shock to our system. It was exactly how we had purchased art until now. He added: “I’m all about democratizing collecting for young collectors. That’s why I love Artsy so much; it’s a great way for anyone to discover artists and chat with galleries.
Young artists continue to appreciate the value the Abruscatos place on personal relationships. “I was lucky enough to meet people like Dylan [through social media], who not only loved my work, but was excited about the journey I was on as an artist,” Bozó told Artsy. “Dylan was one of my earliest supporters, and it’s been great to see his collection continue to grow.”
Ayanna Dozier is Artsy’s editor.